I realize that is a long title but it sums up what I saw yesterday. At the end of a long, hot week and a long hot month where the random fluctuations in my little universe have challenged me to rise up and cope, I was dismayed at the following scene.
Enroute to the pharmacy after my husband’s second arm casting of the week, we sat on the exit ramp. In front of us I read the bumper sticker, “Let Go and Let God.” I think ” what exactly does it mean for people?” For me, it means that God will intervene so I don’t have to do anything. For that reason, I don’t particularly like this bumper sticker.
One thing I believe, if God is listening, he sure as hell, does not mean for me to abdicate my throne for hers. Rather, I think, he wants me to get in there and do my part for the universe, as best I can. Yep, go ahead and forgive those mud slingers, Ann Coutler included. But don’t wait for him to save me from her.
So back to this little scene on the ramp where I’m hot and bothered and at the end of my patience rope. As I read the bumper sticker, I saw before me the driver open the car window, smash his soda can and drop it to the ground. I started yelling at him, so tired, I didn’t want to beep, just yell out my window. By the time my finger engaged the controller, the traffic was moving.
This man/woman drove off leaving the rest of us with his/her mess. I imagine three scenarios for this piece of trash discarded into our universe:
a. the can will be driven over, smushed probably, and it may affect someone’s tires.
b. a cautious driver may dodge it careening off to the right and into the guardrail.
c.the can will be picked up by the air or a person or a sweep of heavy rain and it will end up in recycling or the lake.
So, this is the bumper sticker I think God and I could agree on:
God Protect Me From Your Followers.
The followers who think that you created this beautiful planet and all of us for our own purposes, that we are not here to hold sacred each human, each piece of land, each day because somehow with your magical intervention, you are going to take care of it and make it all better, no matter what crap we put into the universe.
As a companion to my post on bullying, I dug through my archives to find this piece on branding that I wrote several years ago.
I have taught, and worked, individually with over 2000 people, children and adults. I have witnessed the same patterns over and over in human behavior. I am not a scholar of behavior, but I have found one pattern disturbing. People get branded by the society around them and then behave to fulfill the expectation. The society starts with childhood family and moves on through peoples’ lives.
When people are stuck and I have posed options to them, the responses have stunned me…their roots in voices miles, decades away. I wrote this for the artist in the engineer and the engineer in the artist; the leader in the the group of followers and the follower in the leader; and of course, the hero in the scapegoat. Circa 2011
Imagine you are walking down the streets of New York City and you have not been branded yet. There is no story tagged to you, like a piece of tobacco rolled up in thin white paper without a name, you no longer have a label or a story. Gone is your award for class clown, bully, or friend, along with your tag lines: the family hero, writer, artist, black sheep, and on and on.
You, like the pieces of tobacco rolled in thin white paper have no brand. You are free to create your own brand. You can shake off what defined you and write your own story. Like the Virginia Slim, you can ‘go a long way baby.’ The projections of you can be wiped out like your fb account. This is what happened when I rebranded my dog Mu.
Mu was our first puppy. I fell in love with her from the beginning; failing to tell my husband she was not a pure bred until we were half way home. Five months into our relationship, things went bad. Mu grew powerful and started yanking at my shirt sleeve at the end of our walk. The louder I yelled, the more she tugged.
We went for walks or rather she did, with me almost achieving lift off as she dragged me down the path. What to do with this mutt, we should have bought a pure bred?
I told so many stories about my bad, bad dog, that people who knew me then, often ask now, “what ever happened with your crazy dog?”
Then one day, I picked Mu up from an overnight at the vet. I could hardly believe my eyes; there she stood, straight and still with the vet. I asked how she behaved: “Great, she is a sweetheart.”
On my way home I realized Mu was not crazy after all. I needed owner training. With the help of a kind friend, Cathy, I took control of the leash.
I then changed the story. Mu truly was a sweet dog and I started telling people that. In a few short conversations, my little Mu, became branded as the best little boxer this side of the Atlantic.
Now, back in New York City, as you walk through those streets smelling the car fumes and seeing the lights of possibility, you can take that energy and mold yourself into the creature you want to be ~ the one that lives on your own terms and sits like The Thinker, real or metaphorical, its own divine creation, living just once in a burst of beautiful light.
Like Don Draper of my once favorite show Mad Men, you can write your soul, for better or for worse. And as Don did, and I did for Mu you can take a story that condemns you, rewrite it, start spreading it, and change it.
I worked once, over 30 years ago, with a tragic character. Her name, fictionalized, was Sephina. I thought of her whenI watched Charley based on Flowers for Algernon. A story about bullies ~ adult bullying exists and Sephina was my first introduction to this behavior.
Sephina was the daughter of first-generation Italians raised in an Italian working-class community during the 1930s. She was odd and she was justifiably paranoid. Her behavior did not fit the norm; she talked to herself, in between answering phones. She was the receptionist at an office where I held a temporary job, and the butt of humor for the adults behind the glass door that separated the reception area from the offices.
It seemed Sephina’s fear that people were talking about her increased with their talking about her and that is where, as I recall, her paranoia became evident. As she sat down at her station, her eyes would become big and bigger with each person that grazed past her desk. Individuals spoke a casual, “Hello,” then turned to one another and giggled as they opened the glass door and went to their cubicles and desks. Many times I heard small groups whisper to each other, “Oh, there is Sephina, talking to herself, she is so crazy.”
My Aunt, the daughter of Italian immigrants herself, knew Sephina and told me that her husband was a brute. He controlled her every waking moment, rarely let her out of his sight, and demanded much in the way of household chores. I imagined how after being outwardly shunned all day, never invited to Chicken and Biscuit lunches, and climbing into her husband’s car, Sephina went home to more abuse and labor: fixing dinner, cleaning, and making her husband’s lunch for the next day, all the while hearing: “You f____ c ___!”
Sephina dressed in tailored skirts, matching sweaters, and carried a plaid handbag. I watched her leave the office one day, head bowed, staring at the ground as she opened her husband’s car door and slid into the passenger side. He looked like one of those guys in life who never smiled, harsh, grumpy.
One day my Aunt invited Sephina over to her house because we both wanted to see how she made homemade noodles. She taught us step-by-step this arduous process, which I have never done again. She and my Aunt talked about the old days, the kindness of people back then, and some of their mutual acquaintances. Sephina acted perfectly fine and made delicious homemade pasta.
Then she went back to work the next day and to the role she was cast in by that small little world she had grown to inhabit. The role, which her husband solidified (as my aunt told me) when she was told repeatedly, “you are no good.” It is natural to assume the part and become the victim of the role cast in: the unsuspecting person believes it and acts on it. I learned Sephina was not crazy; she was encased in a socially cemented part that her husband and co-workers reinforced.
It is our social nature to want to belong. Groupthink is when individuals follow the thinking of the group even when it causes cognitive dissonance. People with power get away with bullying, not because they are right, but because the individuals around them who comprise the immediate group, do not have the courage to question the behavior of someone in authority. Things will change, when individuals within groups stop supporting the erroneous myths and behaviors of those around them. Children will learn from that example as they replicate the behavior of their adult caretakers.
I never saw Sephina again but in my mind, she still sits alone, isolated from the group behind the glass door. A person with more courage than most.
The other day, at the nursing home… my aunt and I waited patiently in her room for one of her appointments. I was tired and not saying much…every once in a while she’d asked me a question: “How is your pal Stefani?”
“Oh good,” I replied.
And then it started…”What, What? I can’t hear you.”
“She is good,” I replied, again.
A few minutes later, she asked the same question and we went through the same scenario.
Finally, I said, “maybe you should get a hearing aid?”
“What, at my age?” she is 91, “there is nothing wrong with my hearing.”
Last week, we went to dinner with my Mother…granted we were in a corner, near a speaker belting out Frank Sinatra, but I asked her to sit next to me to minimize the whats. She still couldn’t hear me…the what’s ensued. I’ve asked her about getting a hearing aid, she scoffs and says, “What?”
This am, my husband said to me…”What time are we leaving?” I replied, “oh about 10.”
“What,” he asked. “What time are we leaving?”
“10”…I said again. “When are you getting your hearing aid?”
at my brother Bill’s suggestion, this is the best I can do without my copywriters
Don Draper went back to advertising a new man and used his transformation to pull humanity together.He created the COKE commercial and went home to NY where he always wanted to live. Proceeds from his company support: Meditate your way to a better life.
Joan and Don later married and combined their families. “Uncle Roger” still visits when he is not in Paris or Montreal.
Betty had a miraculous recovery and continued her psychology studies, she was last seen getting into a limo to cohost the Dr. Phil show.
Mr. Frances went on to be governor of NY changing his name to Cuomo to win the Italian vote.
Megan Draper drifted off into the LA sunset and is scheduled to appear on an infomercial next Sunday selling frozen French meals like the dinner she often made for Don:poulet au vin.
Pete and his wife lived happily ever after in Kansas, later joined by their second child and Tammy’s sister, Dorothy.
Sally joined the peace corps after college graduation and started smiling: she followed in her mother’s footsteps and helped Glenn after his return from the war.
Bobby and Gene Drapper grew up, studied medicine, and became advertising executives. They now attend Burning Man every year.
Peggy and her husband lived happily ever after, until one day, in their 80s, they died.
Burt Copper comes back every Christmas time to remind us all that things do get better if only we believe.
The over 45 audience exits off stage, pours themselves a Manhattan for old times sake, and says, There goes an end of an era, twice.
I am going to give you a simple piece of advice that I think can help you advance your careers and help you touch lives in this world in ways we can now, in our cell phone digitized world, only dream about: DO LUNCH.
Let me begin with a euglogy I wrote to Lunch when I feared it was almost dead, back in 2011.
I remember you. We first met over a bologna and cheese in the 60s. Occasionally the fish sticks would be added in to our party.
We had a lot of fun during my early work days. I’d meet you around noon and we sat around with colleagues and talked about all sorts of random things. The dreams we had the night before, the latest Seinfeld, and the hot actor on ER, George Clooney. Ah those were the days. Sure, the food wasn’t that great, cafeteria brocolli and ranch dressing, but the company made the whole day worth showing up for, no matter how bad.
For 10 years, we were thick as thieves, you and me Lunch. Thick as thieves.
Then things changed. Well actually, you were still available but in a different place. Our meeting place at my new work site was set up to accommodate 3 in an office of about 50. I ended up seeing you once in a while, those days when I could find a chair or sneak out to eat at the local bakery. Our relationship existed like this for four years, until I moved on to the next job.
Computers hit the work scene in full force and you and I started really drifting apart. I began working as an outreach educator and when I asked about lunch, my boss said, “Oh, lunch, we usually just sit at our desks, but you can take one half hour if you want.”
It wasn’t looking good for us lunch, I should have seen it coming. We managed though, we got together once in awhile. Sometimes, the kitchen classroom was empty and we went in and heated up our macaroni and cheese and sat at the table with other people escaping their office cubes. Other days lunch, you and I would try and take a walk together. Now that was fun, remember how we talked about the good old days when we could actually hang out together.
We were going to try and make it work like it use to, do you remember Lunch?
But now, lunch, years later, our relationship is all but dead. I see you about 3 minutes a day while I’m walking from my classroom to my office or while I’m typing something on my computer. I miss your scent, your crunch, and I miss your companionship,
I miss bul shi ing about life. I could feel you lunch, touch you, exchange words and emotions with you, you felt more warm and fuzzy than my metal computer. No matter how we slice it lunch, it just isn’t the same. I want you in my life, I need to talk, I need to communicate and see what is happening in the world, what I’m missing by just linking posts on Facebook. I just don’t know when you will be coming back. But if you can find a way to ease yourself back into my life, by all means I will be happy to see you.
Lunch and I have reconnected a bit since I wrote this but our relationship needs to be strengthened. So, with hope for the future, here is one important piece of advice:
I see before me young, beautiful, hopeful, energetic people and I fear you will be discouraged by the paradigms we have set before you.
Don’t be, do lunch.
As many days of the week as you can, with as many people as you can. Turn off the electronics, bring sandwiches to the park, or bring grandma to the diner.
At work, sit in the staff room, even if you are alone sometimes, just sit, someone is bound to walk in. Don’t be clannish, practice an open heart. Sit and talk across language differences, job titles, ages, outfits. and income differentials because underneath you will find our common humanity.
At the end of lunch your heart will probably feel warmer as you approach the rest of your day, and you will have received more information about life than spending extra time with your ever present electronic compadre.
In communications, we know that the richest channel of communication is face-to-face. We know this and we need to practice it.
I have tried for hours finding data about a topic only to spend an hour with people who answered my questions in minutes. We think computers have sped us up, but perhaps, in some ways, they have slowed us down.
Accept now that you can not keep up with technology and that the race is futile. Technology is a tool to solve our problems but its popularity seems to have made it into the end product.
The world has many issues that beckon you, that need you. My advice is not to let lunch stay buried in the anthropology room, but to put LUNCH in bold on your calendars.
We live ten miles from Cornell University and it became important for my work as a communications professional and for our viability as landlords, to be part of Web 2.0 and the high-speed Internet world.
In addition, we wanted all the luxuries afforded our contemporaries: video streaming; e-file; Amazon; YouTube DIY videos; online banking; and Skype. I began researching and talking to people about my rural broadband problem and reported the results in over forty-five web logs. During the year, I drilled down to discover the complex systems preventing a connection to the 21st century.
I estimate that during the year I attended six public meetings and had • 11 conversations with our local fortune 500 high-speed provider • 4 conversations with the NYSPSC • 3 conversations with local media reporters • 11 conversations with our neighbors • 1 conversation with the FCC • 1 conversation with the BBC
Blog readers wrote to me and commented on my investigation. I read some blog posts to my writers’ group. After several sessions, one of our group members, a retired engineer, slapped his hand down on the table, and said:
“I hate to be the one to tell you this, but nothing short of an intervention from God, is going to fix this situation.”
I believe this book, laced with humor and rich with data and questions, may save people from wasting time as they struggle along the digital divide. This is a good case study in the profit motive: it can control a nation, if we let it. I also believe there are implications in this story for the dangers of net neutrality.
This is not a dry report on the boring topic of rural broadband; this is the day-to-day struggle of life without it.
Here are some sample sections from the book:
Broadband 5…and so the story continues ~What exactly is a Time Warner Cable survey? 24 hours in the life of the less connected ~Time & money: costs of being less connected #rural broadband: Do we have the technology? ~Is it that we can’t as a nation or that we won’t?
US BROADBAND NOW: Are you kidding me…please say it ain’t so: Kenya to get $40 million in US aid for its national broadband strategy
Tompkins County Legislature’s Special Committee on Broadband will meet Tuesday, February 28, 2012 in Lansing, NY ~Sketch of a system
About the author: Claire Perez holds a M.S. in Communications from the Roy H. Park School at Ithaca College. Ms. Perez has taught for twenty years, including ten years as a secondary social studies instructor and three as a college lecturer. In addition, she has worked and volunteered in community education in Ithaca, New York
rural broadband, digital divide, high-speed Internet, net neutrality, last mile, fiber to the home, wireless broadband
Some folks in my writers’ group at Lansing Community Library have asked me about my blogging process. I thought I’d write-up a few things as my count nears 14,000 hits.
1. People do not want to read long paragraphs online so I work to keep my work spaced out…this was pointed out to me by Dan Veneer at the Lansing Star when he did an article on my blog about rural broadband.
2. Readers and search engines like content and they like consistent posts…during my rural broadband series, my site visits went up by over 100 percent. At the end of 2010, when I started this blog, there had been 804 hits. One year later, after writing about my #rural broadband journey, the hits had increased to 3619. Below is a link to some of the cumulative knowledge I gained and recorded in my rural broadband series.
3. International people are reading my blog, this surprised me and it is only through the WordPress statistics that I discovered this fact. I am still waiting for the tool to discern between readers and search engines. In the meantime, it gives me pause and reminds me of what a bubble I am in here in the US, I need to look for and read more international blogs. Special shout out to my friend in Greece, I think those 18 hits are real:-)
4. Connecting to Twitter and Facebook and other social media does spread my blog, I have had many Facebook friends share my blog, a big compliment! Also, a fellow blogger, Simon at Living in Dryden, graciously talked about and linked my blog to his, note this has led to many referrals.
6. I enjoy the challenge of search engine optimization. By using links and titles with key words in them, I have found my blog posts showing up on the first few pages of goggle searches. Below is a screen shot of a blog that showed up on page 2, at number 15 of 107,000 results, not too shabby.
7. Tags also work, I received a nice e-mail note from a sports writer in Vegas after writing a post about the movie 42 and Branch Rickey. This was especially fun because a gentleman in my writing group has commented on my audacity to write about sports, as a non-athletic woman:-)
In an unrelated situation, a WSKG reporter, Matt Richmond from the Innovation Trail, found my blog and requested an interview with me on rural broadband. I was especially complemented because also interviewed for that segment were two thought leaders, Pat Pryor, a Tompkins County Legislator, and David Salway, Director of the NY Broadband Program Office.
8. There are some very good books about social media and much of what I learned, I read in…The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Also, big shout out to my strategic communications professor at Ithaca College, Steve Seidman who supported my first blogging, social media efforts. He blogs on Posters and Election Propaganda with interesting content and great visuals.
9. I really enjoy reading my friends’ blogs. One friend is from my writers’ group and posts about her life in this area, my adopted home for 20 years: LansingIthaca. Another friend lives in Jamaica and writes an elegant blog about fashion. It is deliberate and focuses on one aspect per post. http://sweetofstyle.wordpress.com/
10. WordPress.com allows me to write in an uninhibited way, sure I get criticisms but I get compliments too. The more I write, the more resilient I become and the more I learn. I have read quotes similar to this one by Taylor Swift, I agree with it:
11. Perspective, for every positive about blogging, I do keep in mind that there are always better bloggers and more popular social media artists out there. One day when I was talking to a friend, he told me about someone who had over a million hits to her Parkour YouTube.
12. I blog because it is fun and it gives me a venue for my writing and photography, something I really enjoy. Which as my first reader, Radames Perez, tells me is at the heart of all creative efforts. He also bought me a book in 2004, way before my blogging career began, Midnight Disease, The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice Weaver Flaherty. This is about hypergraphia and I think my husband’s diagnosis was correct.
yesterday, in the middle of a random power outage, I read Nora Ephron’s Final Act by her son, Jacob Bernstein. A fitting time to read an article about one of my favorite authors, a person whose biological power may have gone out but whose light is with us…
When Nora Ephron died last year, I was waiting for her next book; I did not know she was sick. I felt let down: she let me in so close, why didn’t she tell me she struggled with chronic illness? After all, I knew about Ms. Ephron’s neck, her meeting with JFK, and how much she would miss the city lights someday.
I accepted the end of my relationship with Nora as gracefully as I could. I read about her memorial service, I read her obituary; I goggled a few of her speaking engagements and listened to them. I thought about Ms, Ephron dressing up in her later years, always looking nice, and I accepted that it was ok to use my Barnes and Noble, $15 plastic book bag, as my purse because no matter how much I spent, the perfect purse alludes us.
But I wanted to understand, I wanted to know. Why didn’t she tell me she was dying?… how did it end, the story of her life, the horrible reality that as wisdom grows (I didn’t get it until I was 50, a concept of Ms. Ephron), the damn neck, and everything else, falls apart? And how am I suppose to die Nora, you told me about aging, what about the ending?
Thank you Jacob Bernstein, Nora Ephron’s son. You answered my questions, you gave me a sense of closure when I did not expect one. In your beautifully written article, you shared with us, Nora’s last days and I realized that waiting for her next piece is probably what she wanted me, part of her audience, to do. She was writing and dreaming of writing until the end.
It sounded like Max, her son, searched for closure when he said, “Mom, I’m going to miss you so much.” He didn’t get it, she replied with something about not being dead yet. I sympathize with what I filtered as his meaning: we want to know how to go on without them, our loved ones. Many of them won’t tell us, the sadness of the stage without them, too painful.
The sweetest thing Jacob Bernstein did was the thing he dubbed a failure. His mother organized a table at a party, which she could not attend, sick and in the hospital, she sent Jacob instead. Jacob talks about what a disaster the party turned out to be: “How useless I was, how incompetent. I spent nearly 34 years at the foot of one of New York’s best hostesses.” He did a good thing for his mother, he showed up, trying to grant her a wish that the party continue.
I am glad Nora Ephron’s son shared the final act, there is no humor about ending. If you love life, the news of your demise is plain heartbreaking. What did I learn about ending life: work on the next book and plan the next party.